Sex-selective termination is not the inevitable consequence of access to abortion

Labour Party

The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) has claimed that terminating pregnancies on the basis of the sex of the foetus is the “inevitable consequence” of easy access to abortion.

SPUC felt motivated to put forward this appalling and inaccurate view following revelations in the Daily Telegraph that doctors agreed to carry out abortions on the grounds of the sex of the foetus. The Daily Telegraph sent undercover reporters to nine abortion clinics in Britain and found three cases where women wanted a termination because of the gender of the foetus.

Abortion carried out because the potential baby is the wrong sex is completely and utterly reprehensible. It is also illegal, according to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. In England, Scotland and Wales that there are criteria which have to be met to have a termination before 24 weeks, including:

  • Continuing with the pregnancy would be a greater risk to the woman’s life, physical or mental health than ending the pregnancy
  • Continuing would be more of risk to the physical or mental health of any of the women’s existing children
  • There is a real risk the unborn child would have a serious physical or mental disability

In addition, two doctors have to agree to the abortion, or one in the case of an emergency, and conditions are stricter for abortions carried out after 24 weeks. In Northern Ireland abortion is usually illegal unless the mother’s life is at risk.

So despite what SPUC may have you believe, it is actually quite difficult under the law to get an abortion. We do not have “easy access” to abortion. There are strict requirements for the procedure to be undertaken in a legal fashion.

In response to the Daily Telegraph investigation SPUC makes an extraordinary claim, namely, “This investigation confirms the reality of eugenics in modern British medicine.” Making accusations such as this is both stupid and deeply offensive.   

The Daily Telegraph does not tell us which sex was preferred and which sex was consigned to the dustbin of termination. My strong hunch is that it is girls who are not wanted. Female foetuses are terminated in India because of their gender, and the same is probably true in other parts of the world. We need more information on whether it is girls who are terminated in larger numbers than boys so that the problem of parents not wanting females can be properly addressed.  

The Department of Health has launched an inquiry into the claims the abortions are carried out on the basis of sex and Andrew Lansley has roundly condemned the practice. Let’s hope he has more success with this inquiry, and subsequently ensuring the current abortion laws are obeyed, than he is currently having with the disastrous NHS Bill.